I mustache you a question about damascus…

When discussing various damascus patterns, smiths can use a wide variety of terms, some of which give evoke the look of the resulting pattern, others which detail the process, and others still which are mysterious, by intent or otherwise.  Damascus patterns that are named for their appearance might include “wolfs-tooth” and “feather”.  Among those named for their process are “jelly roll”, “twist”, and “crushed W’s”.  Then there are patterns described by their layer count, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they look like any given thing, but rather that they have been folded and/or restacked to the point where forging and grinding creates a random pattern, with lines that are finer as the layer count grows.

One of the very distinctive patterns that we had been discussing earlier this year was the wolfs-tooth, a pattern of regular (or somewhat regular) triangles built into the pattern that convey a dental detail.  If you do a quick internet search, you can see a wide variety of examples, many of which appear on Viking themed blades.  Jamie and Peter decided to make a wolfs-tooth pact in the run-up to Blade Show in June, with both smiths agreeing to construct a piece using that pattern to bring to the show.  They documented the process on Instagram throughout their builds, under the hashtag #wolfstoothchallenge. 

This post will take you through Peter’s project, or as much of it as we remembered to document.  He had decided early in the process that a simple row of triangles along a blade wasn’t going to cut it, and he wanted to incorporate the teeth into a more complex pattern.  The first step was re-stacking the tooth cut that he made, which created teeth that had other teeth mounted on top of them.  Think pine trees, or perhaps a simplified spade.  You’ll see that when we look at some of the test etches that happened along the way.

Once the tooth bar was ready, Peter wanted to roll it up in the jelly-roll style, where he turned the bar into a cinnamon-bun looking billet.  However, again, he wanted to go with a non-standard approach, so he rolled it from both ends like a mustache rather than a single spiral.  The rough billet looked like this:

We put up a video about this on our YouTube channel if you want to check that out here.

The billet looks like it has some pretty serious voids in it at this stage, which is absolutely true.  This is going to be forged out into a bar with the mustache as the cross-section, so there will be plenty of heat and hammering to take care of them.

Once the billet was forged into bar form, Peter took a cross-section of it and ground and etched an end to see what things were looking like so far.  Now you can see the double-teeth clearly, though some of them have started getting distorted by all the forging.  This bar would be stacked back-to-back, to turn the mustache pattern into a bit more of a butterfly.

 

Once again, simple is never good enough, so Peter set out to make another pattern which he would use to surround the butterflies that he made.    This one was called a “squiggle” pattern, for obvious reasons.  We will let you speculate on how you think this billet came together.

Now, it was time to assemble all the stock that he had built into a single bar which would be manipulated even more.  So we should now expect to see a butterfly-of-double-wolfs-teeth, surrounded by a squiggle, in the resulting stock.  You be the judge:

With all the additional manipulations, those big voids in the original mustache have been forged shut.  With a sizeable bar of this super-cool cross section in hand, Peter then set out to find additional ways to make this project complex beyond description.  But we will try to describe it!

Since this pattern is the cross section of a bar, and he wanted to showcase views of it, Peter decided to do an accordion manipulation next.  For the unimaginative, the accordion starts with a measured series of alternating cuts.  They were rounded out slightly and then the bar was forced open to display the cross-section many times over the face of the bar.  How did that work out, you may be wondering?  You can watch the actual process here, but we are also going to spoil it for you.

The forces at work in spreading the cuts in this bar were a bit too much for the pattern-welded material to handle, much to Peter’s frustration.  All was not lost, though – he learned something from the failure that can be applied to the next accordion manipulation.  Also, there was some material that could be salvaged, and it was sectioned off and forged into a cinquedea, a broad-bladed Italian short sword that enjoyed several decades of fame from the late 15th to early 16th century.

The beauty of this design decision on Peter’s part is that the cinquedea was popular not for its function entirely, but because it was a very large canvas on which swordsmiths could showcase their artistry.  Therefore, it seems like a great choice for a bold, weird pattern of such complex manipulation.

 

Another design choice that Peter made was to tie the fittings to the blade by using more pieces of the same billet.  Therefore the pommel and guard also have the crazy pattern, as you can see in the final few pictures.

 

 

The cinquedea was complete in time to journey to Blade Show.  Getting it in front of a large audience was a rewarding experience, even though it didn’t find a new home before the end of the show.  For the time being, you can find this item in our Display Case, aka our Etsy marketplace.